‘More about roles than landmarks’

Ambati Rayudu on song.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Ambati Rayudu scored a maiden ODI hundred as India crushed Sri Lanka at Motera. G. Viswanath reports.

Ambati Rayudu has an air of innocence about him, but he showed nerves of steel for nearly three hours inside a crammed stadium at Motera, a suburb far removed from the famous darwajas of Ahmedabad. Nothing may have prepared the locals for an extremely creative effort from a batsman looking to establish himself in the team; instead the many thousands waited in anticipation of a stand-out performance from local lad Axar Patel; the inclusion of Ravindra Jadeja for the second one-day international of the Micromax 5-match series also opened possibilities of a tussle between the two in the match.

But Rayudu made the match his own; he held two good catches in the deep and ran out a batsman with a sharp throw to the ’keeper. Raised in the stylists’ world of Hyderabad cricket and in recent years promoted as captain of Baroda, Rayudu played a gem of an innings; none of the Sri Lankan fast bowlers could make him flinch or the spinners ruffle his concentration. His undefeated, less than a run-a-ball 121 (118 balls, 10x4, 4x6) was a showpiece knock that dashed the Sri Lankan hopes of levelling the series after the team had put together 274 on batting first. India won the match by six wickets with five overs and three balls remaining to take a 2-0 lead.

Tillakaratne Dilshan is scalped by one from Axar Patel-S. SUBRAMANIUM

There were also other Indians who showed tremendous commitment. Left-hander Shikhar Dhawan, following his century in Cuttack and an opening blitz of 231 with Ajinkya Rahane, played a no-frills knock of 79 and played his part in the second-wicket recovery phase that delivered 122 runs in a little over 20 overs. Then skipper Virat Kohli — who had celebrated his 26th birthday the previous day on November 5 — played well within himself and mentored Rayudu to his maiden ODI century.

Fast bowler Umesh Yadav too showed his skill to manipulate the seam with the new ball and accounted for the first over dismissal of the left-handed Kusal Perera. And Ravichandran Ashwin, hit for four 4s in the last over of the first power-play by Tillakaratne Dilshan, proved his mettle with a comeback effort that resulted in only 31 runs off 54 balls with the scalps of Mahela Jayawardene and Suraj Randiv to boot.

Left-arm spinner Axar Patel nonplussed Dilshan by castling him with a delivery that masked a trick and the local Gujaratis were pleased as punch when the Saurashtrian-Gujarati Ravindra Jadeja took some stick.

There were several plus points, but the inability to bowl out the opponents — after they were 220 for eight in the 44th over — and gift 54 to the ninth wicket pair in the last half a dozen overs stuck out like a sore thumb. India conceded six wides and over-stepped twice for free hits. Yadav was a bit wayward in the end overs and Ishant Sharma was profligate.

The Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews was matter of fact at the press conference. He came at the fall of the third wicket at 64 in the 14th over and guided his team to 275, but missed his first ODI century by eight runs (92 not out, 110 balls, 10x4, 1x6).

“We are getting better, but still I am disappointed and embarrassed with the fact that we were not competitive enough. India thrashed us in the first ODI and also in second ODI. It was a convincing performance by India and we need to try and up our game in the next three.

It would have been better if I had scored 60 and won the game, but unfortunately we ended up on the losing side. I have been pretty good with the bat in the past six to eight months. I am trying to continue in the same vein, trying to be consistent as long as I can and try and contribute with the bat and the ball. But at the same time it’s not about individual performances,” said Mathews. Kumar Sangakkara showed patience and made a half century.

After nearly 95 overs of the match, Indian cricket was left with happy memories of a fine century by Rayudu. But what did he say after his first 100? “I’m definitely happy that I got a 100. But, for me personally, the three-figure mark doesn’t matter. It’s the team winning that matters. When you play for India, you have to fulfill whatever role the team gives you. It’s more about roles than landmarks.”